Clause 58 - Primary and secondary authorities

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 25th January 2005.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

This clause defines primary and secondary authorities. A primary authority is

''(a) a district council in England;

(b) a county council in England for an area for which there is no district council;

(c) a London borough council''

and so on. A secondary authority is 

''(a) a parish council in England;

(b) a community council in Wales.''

The definitions relate to other clauses, which state that one person will be designated to have authority in such matters. I wonder whether the Minister could clarify, before we vote on this, what happens in an area which crosses the borders, particularly between England and Wales. Who has authority over these matters where there are cross-border disputes?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his questions. Perhaps I can explain what the clause does, and then respond.

Clause 58 defines local authorities in England, and county or county boroughs in Wales, as primary authorities, and parish councils and community councils in Wales as secondary authorities. The Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales—whichever is appropriate—can also designate other organisations carrying out statutory functions as being secondary authorities. It is important to note that point. Such bodies could include national parks authorities or commons conservators with existing dog byelaw-making powers, for instance, and it provides a comprehensive way of dealing with any issues in terms of what bodies should be able to exercise those powers.

I am not sure that there is an issue in relation to the border any more than arises between the border of one local authority and another—or, indeed, one parish council and another. Clearly, each has powers within its area, and it is sensible, where possible, for organisations that have a common border to talk to each other. I would not be at all surprised, for instance, if a number of parish councils sometimes worked together, took the same approach and jointly employed staff, as is increasingly happening on a number of issues. That ensures that they have both the local sensitivity that arises from having such a local body and gain benefits through working together. The hub-and-spoke model has operated in other places where a larger parish council can work with others, or a town council can work with surrounding parish councils. I envisage a similar degree of co-operation when issues arise on borders between local authorities. The same would apply if the border happened to be not only between an English county and a Welsh unitary authority, but the border between England and Wales. An authority would be responsible for the area of land within its boundaries.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

I assume that similar problems have existed. We have talked about cross-border disputes in other pieces of legislation, but we are now looking at cases that could involve, as the Minister says, borders between Wales and England. However, they could also involve borders between one district and another. Working together is fine, but does the Minister foresee that the co-operation would extend to fining?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

That raises interesting theoretical issues. Would people, for example, take their dogs across parish boundaries to foul in the areas where the fines are lower? Somehow, I do not think that such issues are likely to arise. It is likely that the issues   would be similar in adjoining parishes. Such parishes would, for instance, be likely to take a common decision in equity on fines.

Of course, the border could be between a parish in one county and a parish in another, depending on what body had undertaken the arrangements. If, at the end of the day, issues needed to be addressed in regulations and guidance, the capacity to do that would remain. However, I hope that common sense would dictate most of the responses between different authorities.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions, Young People, Non-Departmental & Cross-Departmental Responsibilities

Although I follow the Minister's argument about likely co-operation, is it not slightly more likely that a cross-border issue could arise? This provision would extend to much more land, including public access land, than would have been the case under previous legislation. So there is a chance, for example, that one authority could implement a dog-control order, and for there to be through-access into another authority that did not have a dog-control order. That would make things a little difficult.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

That is theoretically possible but, in practice, most people and organisations have developed experience in dealing with such issues; we certainly found that during the consultation. There is greater public engagement and support for tackling such issues, so I am optimistic. However, as I have said, the reserve arrangements would be there if we needed them.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 58 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 59 ordered to stand part of the Bill.